Charleston found itself awash in congressional hopefuls and surprises Friday in what’s become a free-for-all to fill the region’s vacant 1st Congressional District seat.

The field

Who filed Friday, Republicans:Charleston County School Board member Elizabeth MofflyLocal educator Teddy Turner of Mount PleasantWho filed Friday, Democrats:Businessman Martin Skelly of CharlestonWho says they’re in or looking at it, Republicans:Keith Blanford, Sullivan’s Island, businessmanFormer Charleston County Councilman Curtis BosticState Sen. Larry Grooms, BonneauSystems engineer Jeff King, Goose CreekFormer Charleston School Board member Larry KobrovskyFormer state Sen. John Kuhn, CharlestonState Rep. Chip Limehouse, CharlestonState Rep. Peter McCoy, James IslandFormer Dorchester County Sheriff Ray NashState Rep. Andy Patrick, Hilton Head IslandFormer Gov. Mark SanfordWho says they’re in or looking at it, Democrats:Clemson wind turbine official Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, CharlestonEducator Bobby Rose, of Charleston Source: Rep. and Dem. leaders

The surprises included Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, becoming the latest entry in the field, saying she will join the race next week as a Democrat.

She is also the business development director at Clemson University’s wind turbine site in North Charleston.

News of her candidacy came shortly after millionaire businessman Martin Skelly of Charleston also jumped in.

Their bids mean no fewer than 16 people, from both parties, have either committed to run or said they’re leaning toward it.

Friday marked the opening of the 10-day filing period to fill the vacancy created when Jim DeMint resigned his Senate seat and incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Scott was choses as his successor.

On the Republican side, only Charleston County School Board member Elizabeth Moffly and educator Teddy Turner of Mount Pleasant paid their $2,900 filing fee and submitted candidacy papers to state GOP headquarters. Skelly, meanwhile, was the lone Democrat to officially file.

The 1st District race is fast becoming the most-crowded congressional fight seen in Charleston in modern times. Gov. Nikki Haley took note of the size Friday during a visit here, though she said she wasn’t ready to get involved.

“I’m not backing anyone right now,” Haley said as she stood where Google will soon begin building its third local data center in Berkeley County.

“I hear it’s a pretty big open field, and there’s some big shoes to fill,” she added.

Haley said she was not surprised to see her predecessor, Mark Sanford, enter the race for the seat he held for three terms previously.

“He was always strong on policy. He was always very involved in what happened in Washington,” she said. “It’s his old congressional district, so it wasn’t surprising that he decided to run.”

The schedule has the filing period open until Jan. 28. Afterward, primaries are set for March 19, with runoffs, if needed, April 2. The general election is May 7.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551. Brendan Kearney contributed to this report.